February 15, 2002

Census Bureau Corrects Local Errors

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Errors made in the 2000 U.S. Census concerning the geographic distribution of Cornell students within Tompkins County were officially corrected on Feb. 4.

The Census placed 5,882 Cornell students living in North Campus dormitories in the wrong Census block, according to Thomas Mank, planning analyst for the Tompkins County Department of Planning.

Blocks are the smallest geographic area used in the Census to break down populations. “North Campus students were counted correctly, but they appear to have all been placed in the same block,” Mank said. “The Census Bureau did not know where the dorms were located.”

Early last year, staff in the City and County planning departments detected the errors in the Census report. The staff found improbable population shifts in the northeast corner of the City of Ithaca where many Cornell residence halls are located, Mank said.

Mistakes were also discovered in the town of Ithaca, which borders the city through North Campus.

“There were around 512 people living in the townhouses counted in the city when they should have been counted in the town of Ithaca,” Mank said.

The North Campus townhouses and Ecology House lie within the town’s borders while the other freshmen dormitories lie within the city’s


In response to this, the town of Ithaca filed a lawsuit against the Tompkins County Board of Representatives, according to Jonathan Wood,

Tompkins County Attorney.

The town Of Ithaca’s lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the County acted illegally in using its own corrections of Census figures in the redistricting process.

The town thought that County adjustments made to reflect changes in population were “breaking up the [Town of Ithaca] too much,” Wood


The lawsuit was twice dismissed and twice appealed.

Recent notification of Tompkins County by the U.S. Census Bureau that errors in the 2000 census have been corrected, assures that the

lawsuit be put to rest,” said Wood. “The certified numbers show that the County’s new districts are legal and should stand,” he added.

Archived article by Marc Zawel